Friction, the second novel by Matt Marshall (The Starlight Line), unfolds over the course of the tumultuous year 2014. The planet continues to warm, pro-Russian militants seize large swaths of Eastern Ukraine, the Islamic State rises to terror in the Middle East, Syria splinters further toward collapse, Ebola breaks out in West Africa, unbridled white cops cut down unarmed blacks in U.S. cities, heroin kills indiscriminately throughout the Midwest (and beyond), a floundering man meets a desperate woman wheeling her bike off the velodrome in Cleveland.
Written in a free-flowing style punctuated by shifts in font size, Friction follows the relationship between these two Clevelanders--the woman, a recovering heroin addict increasingly drawn into the conflict in her ancestral Ukraine; the man, an "astronomical folklorist" with a penchant for Sun Ra recordings, trying, perhaps, just to stay tethered to Earth. Identities flitter and morph as 2014 rumbles on and the two struggle to find meaningful roles amidst the upheaval.
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